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Stateside Podcast: What omicron means for Michigan

Coronavirus
Clare Schneider
/
NPR

On Friday, the World Health Organization announced that the omicron variant of COVID-19 is a “new variant of concern.” In reaction, some governments—including the United States—halted travel with African nations where reports of the variant originated, leaving travelers in a frenzy.

Omicron hasn’t been confirmed in the United States. But it has been found in parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and today, right over the border from Michigan, in Ontario, Canada.

Emily Martin, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan said she wouldn’t be surprised if omicron was already present all around the world.

“When these new variants come out and people start looking for them, we usually find them pretty quickly in most places,” said Martin.

Experts still don’t know a lot about the omicron variant. There isn’t enough data yet to say whether or not the variant has a higher rate of transmission than other variants of COVID-19, or if it will cause another wave in the pandemic.

Martin said we should continue combatting COVID-19 with the same strategies that have worked all along.

“Vaccination is continuing to be the...first line of defense,” she said. “And we have a lot of room to grow in Michigan in terms of getting people vaccinated.”

She also noted the importance of good air ventilation in buildings, and individual masking, especially for age groups newly eligible to the vaccine or aren’t eligible for it at all.

Listen to today’s Stateside podcast episode for our full conversation with epidemiologist, Emily Martin.

Looking for more conversations from Stateside? Right this way.

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Stateside’s theme music is by 14KT.

Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.

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Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Radio in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the Summer of 2020.